Mayor, veto Miami unfair and unnecessary redistricting maps

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The NAACP has urged Miami Mayor Francis Suarez to veto the city’s redistricting map that would divide Coconut Grove into three.

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Who really benefits from Miami’s redesigned district maps?

Is it Commissioner Joe Carollo, who would be allowed to legally reside in his longtime home?

Is it Commissioner Christine King, who is keeping a downtown property slated to be turned into a luxury real estate transaction?

Is it Commissioner Alex Diaz de la Portilla, whose district would take more waterfront properties along the Miami River?

Or the people of the city of Miami?

These are the questions Mayor Francis Suarez should ask himself before deciding whether or not to sign on the map the commission adopted on March 24 redrawing the five political districts of the city. Suarez has 10 days from that date to decide whether or not to veto the card. The redistricting process is necessary every decade to adjust political boundaries based on population changes in the US Census.

If Suarez asks these questions, a veto should be the only answer.

As of Thursday, he had yet to announce a decision and his spokeswoman told the Herald editorial board that he was analyzing the map.

At stake is the future political representation of Miami’s oldest neighborhood, Coconut Grove and its historic black population. Despite having a relatively small area population, the grove wielded strong political influence. This is partly thanks to the fact that the entire grove is currently contained within District 2, represented by Commissioner Ken Russell. Residents are also among the most engaged in the city in their fight to preserve the area’s historic character and green spaces.

Under the redistricting plan, the grove would be divided into three districts – and further dilute the political clout of black residents. This would require citizens to come before three different commissioners with different philosophies to be heard on issues. This means that they would constitute a smaller and less powerful part of the electorate in these constituencies.

The new map would move 100 black households from West Grove to District 4 – a blow to a community that risks being displaced by gentrification.

Miami 2022 Redistricting
This map includes most of the changes to the City of Miami district boundaries that were approved on March 24. City of Miami

Another section of Grove called Natoma Manors, where Carollo has owned a home for 20 years, would move to his District 3. Currently, Carollo cannot live in this home without breaking the rules that require him to legally reside in District 3. the limits would allow him to leave a rental in Little Havana and return.

Is it just a coincidence that the redrawn boundaries of District 3 spring up as an annex to cover Carollo’s former home? In Miami politics, such coincidences are usually not the case.

The NAACP sent a letter to Suarez asking for a veto, saying “we have a duty to protect our democracy and prevent unjust redistricting plans that threaten equal representation under the law.” The consultants the city hired to redesign the districts say they complied with federal voting rights law.

Whether or not there is a legal argument to be made, shouldn’t be Suarez’s only concern.

Residents of Coconut Grove organized into a grassroots group called “One Grove”, which showed up en masse to order hearings and garnered 2,200 petition signatures against the plan. They are upset that the public input part of the process seems like a sham – and they are right to be. Why should they trust the commission when they faced what they called “a disgraceful circus of shame” by Carollo and Diaz de la Portilla in public meetings? Reprimanding citizens from the dais has been the MO of these two commissioners for far too long.

If Suarez wants to send a strong message, he should use his veto power to pressure the commission to increase the number of neighborhoods in the city. Miami’s population has grown from just under 400,000 in 2010 to over 442,000 in 2020, and District 2’s rapid growth prompted city consultants to divide the grove. Five commissioners are not enough to ensure adequate representation in a booming city. Similar-sized cities like Atlanta have more reps.

The Miami City Commission had the chance to go this route early in the process, but chose not to. Why would they when it would dilute their own power? That’s the problem with this redistricting process — it seems to be more about power than representation for Miamians.

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